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The human mind is, through sin, degraded beneath its own nature. Its eye is stained, overclouded, and become totally blind. Therefore this mystery could never have been perceived by us without the benefit of a Divine Revelation."
All men are naturally “in error.” How can it be otherwise, since all are naturally blind! A blind man, placed in a wilderness without a guide, must, of necessity, wander about not knowing whither he goeth. - We have all erred and
strayed from God's ways like lost sheep,” as our own confessions testify. Of this there is no doubt. The grand question is, Are we restored to the way of righteousness? There are two spirits mentioned by St. John, (1 Ep. iv. 6.) as ruling and governing the whole world, “ rit of truth, and the spirit of error.”. By which of these are we led ? If we have been brought back to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and are now led by His Spirit, the glory is due to God, while we are made conscious of the happy change which we have experienced—a change of sentiments, of heart, and of life.
“ The light of God's truth” is the revelation which He hath made in His word. Once we - wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way, “ and found no city to dwell in. Hungry and
thirsty our souls fainted in us.” We " walked « in darkness and had no light." But the word of God is now “a light to our feet and a lamp to “our paths.” The sun of righteousness hath arisen upon us.
And if our eyes have been anointed with that eye-salve which the great Physician prescribes and applies, we benefit by His lays.
We discern the tremendous dangers which we have escaped during the darkness in which we before travelled. We discover the perils with
which our path is still encompassed so as to shun them. The tract which we are to follow is evident to our view, and the object at which we are to aim is in sight. “ The light of God's truth,” the information which is communicated in the Scriptures and received by faith, is such as may be fully depended on. It is “a faithful saying “ and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus “ came into the world to save sinners.” The light of Scripture is not an ignis fatuus, which, like the supposed revelations of enthusiastic minds, will allure and disappoint. But it is a solid, steady, uniform light, which guides the feet of those who make use of it in the paths of peace to the realms of bliss.
That act of Divine mercy which is described in our collect, then, is of a twofold nature, as we have already observed. There is a twofold manifestation of light which God graciously vouchsafes to His people; one in His word, the other in the human mind. The light diffused by the word, like that of the material sun, is designed for our use and fully adapted to its end. But as the material light is of use to those only who have the faculty of sight, so also the word of God can produce no saving effects on any persons but those only who have that “faith” which is of “ the operation of God.” God “shews to them " that be in error the light of His truth,” by removing the film which sin has spread over the
He “opens the understanding ss to understand the Scriptures.” The eye is the lamp of the whole body. Therefore, on the one hand, if the eye be clear, and free from any vitiating humour, the whole body will be full of light, enjoying the advantage of the solar beams; but, on the other hand, if the eye be distempered,
eye of the mind.
the whole body will be full of darkness, notwithstanding the sun shines with meridian brightness.
The end for which “God shews to them that - be in error the light of His truth” is their salvation. It is “to the intent that they may re“ turn into the way of righteousness."
« The way of righteousness” is “the right way that
leads to the city of habitation." Christ is the way of faith and holiness of righteousness both imputed and imparted—of justification and sanctification. A reliance on Christ for pardon and acceptance, and universal obedience to the will of God, conjointly for the way in which we must walk, as it is pointed out to us by the light of God's truth, in order that we may attain to the salvation of our souls-these cannot be disunited from each other. Faith and love are correlatives; they have a reciprocal relation, so that the existence of one depends on the existence of the other.
O merciful intent of Divine goodness! May « Almighty God” who alone can do it “ shew both to the writer and reader of these pages the
light of His truth, so that we may return into “ the way of righteousness !” May He convert our souls, and lead us in “ the paths of right“eousness for His name's sake.” May He “turn “ us from darkness to light”-from error to truth - from the law to Christ-from sin to holiness from the devil, the world, and the flesh, to God from the confines of hell to the threshold of heaven.
We are not to suppose from the language of our collect that God merely points out “ the way “ of righteousness," and then leaves the sinner to his own depraved will. No; He “worketh so in us both to will and to do of His own good “ pleasure.” The bias of our will is naturally to the
of error and death. And notwithstanding any discovery made to the understanding, that way we should pursue, were not the illumination of the mind accompanied with conversion of heart. God effectually inclines His people to obedience while He clearly manifests Ilis will to them. They are not constrained to act against their will; but they are made “ wil
ling” to do that which is right “ in the day - of His power.”
The petition of our collect implores further grace, in addition to that which we have already received and which has been before described, in order that our conversation may be conformed to our profession. We pray for ourselves and for all who are “admitted into the fellowship “ of Christ's religion, that we may eschew those “ things that are contrary to our profession, “ and follow all such things as are agreeable to “ the same, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This petition is founded on the foregoing preface; for in the latter an acknowledgment is made of Divine goodness in our conversion. But are we indeed turned from the error of our ways: This is a most important inquiry, since our pe. tition is confined to those who are so turned. By them only can it be with propriety used, for none else know what is contrary or agreeable to à profession of Christianity-None else can feel any desire to “adorn the doctrine of God our « Saviour"--None else are under the influence of those motives which are essential to a holy walk and conversation.
The persons then for whom grace is implored in our collect are those who are "admitted into “the fellowship of Christ's religion;" that is, those who are truly converted to God. Now the religion of Christ is a system of privileges and duties. The word religion signifies obligation.* It consists of faith and practice-of obligations arising from privileges freely bestowed, which are commensurate with all the capacities of which its votaries are possessed, and binding them to duties which are commensurate with all their powers. The influence of privilege and duty in Christ's religion is mutual. Its privileges cannot be enjoyed without producing obedience, nor can its duties be practised without an enjoyment of its privileges. But though these are cotemporary, yet an enjoyment of the privileges of Christianity, in the order of causes and effects, takes the precedence. For “ faith worketh by love."
“ The fellowship of Christ's religion” is a participation of its privileges, a joint interest in its blessings. Fellowship is partnership. But with whom is this fellowship formed? “Truly our “ fellowship is with the Father and with His Son “ Jesus Christ.” Believers participate in all the blessings of the Father's love and of the Son's redemption. “ All things are theirs, for they “ are Christ's, and Christ is God's." “The
fellowship of the Holy Ghost” is also with them, for they partake of His consolations. There is a joint interest also between all the members of Christ's holy Catholic church, whether saints made perfect or militant believers. 45 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, “ one God and Father of all, who is above all, “ and through all, and in them all.” Their participation of covenant-mercy is that of senior
* See p. 14 of this volume.